The role of Historical Land in the History of Central Europe

The boundaries of Central Europe and their definition have been subject to change throughout modern history, yet they enclose a space the specific political, social and cultural nature of which is beyond any doubt. Historical research has refined the definition of the role and meaning of this concept as both an “ideological construct” and a set of specific historic events which took place in Central Europe and had a formative impact on its further development. Of major importance for research are cultural and political links with other regions of Europe which played a complementary role in the formation of a Central European identity, primarily trends in relations with “Western” and “Eastern” Europe and the geopolitical, cultural, social and religious impacts of these.

The key concept which informs work in this particular research segment is the concept of historical land. The history of Central Europe is not limited to the formation and growth of empires, states and nations; it also includes historical lands which, beginning with the Middle Ages, played the role of basic political units, the importance of which was reflected in their public and administrative functions. The land – state – nation relationship is a dramatic chapter in the process of formation of modern states and nations, and in the process of formation of national awareness and the identities of social groups and individuals. As a result, research has been extended to provincial institutions, self-government, political and administrative units with different degrees of autonomy and political representation, and to their roles, as well as to issues of homogenisation of society and of regional social links. This orientation is closely related to “long-time” processes which can be traced back in the political, social and cultural coordinates of Central Europe, both in the Middle Ages and in modern history.

Specific research tasks are focused on key topics and issues related to the above field and concentrate on the following areas:

  • Research into Czech statehood in the Early and High Middle Ages and in the formative stage of the Estates, with a special focus on the symbolic attributes of royal, land and state power. Research in the above field should clarify the ideological and ritual bases for the constitution of the Czech lands, the formation of state and land symbols and of their meaning, the nature of coronation rituals and the relation between the king and the institutions representing the Estates, as compared with neighbouring countries. The output will consist of several conferences and miscellanies on the topic of “State, Land and Rituals, and a team-authored monograph “on the beginnings of the Estates system.”
  • Research into the transformation of social elites and unprivileged classes in the process of economic and social evolution in central European society, involving analysis of trends in the rural areas of Moravia and in the craftsmen class in a medieval context, from the Late Middle Ages to the end of the 19th century. Principal areas of research will be the social role of the elites and unprivileged classes, the everyday and festive life of rural populations and their mentality. Also addressed will be the changing role of the nobility in society and issues arising from the impact of pecuniary relations on social relations. The output will consist of several workshops and miscellanies on the topic “from subject to citizen”, labour migration of journeymen in the 18th and 19th centuries and changes in the historical role of the nobility, a team-authored monograph entitled Pecunia nervus societatis, and a monograph under the title The Moravian countryside in the 16th and 17th centuries in the context of Central Europe, Karel the Elder of Žerotín and the State as the protector and controller (Austria at the turn of the 18th Century).
  • Research into the transformation of the traditional land and estate division of society into a nationally- and civically-structured society. The objective is to acquire a better understanding of the role of the political system and of land, municipal and communal self-government and trends of integration and disintegration in the period of formation of national and civic society in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. The output will consist in symposia and miscellanies on the topic of historical land and municipal political elites and political involvement of citizens in the 19th century, national emancipation in central Europe, a team-authored monograph entitled Man in the 20th century, a team-authored monograph entitled Provincial urban centres and society in the city of Brno from 1850 to 1918 and political extremism in the era of the First Czechoslovak Republic as a factor of disintegration, plus 5 or 7 volumes of correspondence and material related to personalities of note from the 19th century (D. Slovobda, F. Skopalík, J. Winkler and J. H. A. Gallaš).
  • Research into the pre-historical phase of 20th century European integration, with a special focus on the legal, political, economic and cultural context of historical lands and regions. Particular attention will be given to trends towards unification and also those towards regionalism, and research will also include the concept of subsidiarity. The output will consist of several monothematic miscellanies followed by a monograph entitled Historical land and the (large) region in the pre-history and history of European Integration: a specific trait of Central Europe (1918 -) 1945 – 2005.
  • Research into the role of religion and culture from the Early Modern Era to Modern Times. Particular attention will be given to ecumenical efforts in orthodox and unionist churches, to the relation between churches and the state in the modern era, to the secularisation of Europe, and to denominational issues with a special focus on Czech and Moravian Catholicism and its culture-forming role in the 20th century. The output will consist of several international symposia, workshops and miscellanies on the topic of unionist trends in central European religious history, religion and culture in the Czech lands in the modern era, and a monograph entitled Unionist tendencies in Central European religious history of the 16th and 17th Centuries, and A Dictionary of Czech Catholicism.

In addition to particular historical topics, research will be extended to historiographical issues with a special focus on land historiography, the assessment of philosophical and historical concepts, different forms of historical memory and its transformation, and to a comparison of Czech historiography with that of neighbouring countries, especially for the 19th and 20th centuries. The output will consist of several workshops, miscellanies and a team-authored monograph on 19th and 20th century historiography.